Cloud computing refers to technology that enables organisations to access computing resources on an as-needed basis. Rather than investing in data centres, servers, and software applications, cloud computing offers pay-as-you-go pricing. This option makes cloud a cost-effective way to access computing resources while avoiding the costs involved in maintaining and updating on-premise infrastructure.
What is cloud computing?
At its core, cloud computing provides businesses with the IT and computing resources they need on-demand. The computing resources – such as RAM, processing power and storage space – is abstracted from the hardware and made available over the internet.
Cloud computing services and delivery models
Organisations in need of computing resources can now access a whole range of services in the cloud. These include servers, storage, networking, processing power, middleware, and software applications.
Alongside on-premise solutions, there are three primary service models for cloud computing – Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
Software as a service
SaaS provides access to software applications over the internet. The client doesn’t own these apps but instead gains access to them as a service through the internet. Clients can access the software directly via the software developer or through a managed services provider (MSP).
Rather than a one-time purchase, SaaS invoicing is based on factors such as the number of users or the amount of activity. These billing features let clients pay for the resources they need at any given time instead of leaving capital tied up in under-utilised infrastructure.
Platform as a service
PaaS offers access to a cloud-based infrastructure environment where businesses can develop, run, and manage new and improved business applications. PaaS lets these businesses innovate without having to deploy and maintain dedicated app infrastructure.
Infrastructure as a service
IaaS enables businesses to access computing capabilities over the web, including access to storage, additional computing power on-demand, virtual servers and networks. The service provider takes on the burden of managing and supporting both the infrastructure and its accessibility.
How can cloud computing help modern organisations?
Cloud computing offers a host of benefits to businesses. Most recently, COVID-19 has seen many of us working from home – a feat enabled at least in part by cloud computing.
But there remains a wide range of other reasons why cloud solutions are increasingly popular.
- Cloud storage lets remote employees access corporate network applications from anywhere with an internet connection.
- Scalability is virtually limitless in the cloud, letting businesses grow or shrink their computing capacity to meet demand.
- Cloud solutions let organisations divert funds away from purchasing computing infrastructure and instead use them in other areas.
- Cloud solutions remove the need to maintain compute infrastructure, as updates and patching is performed by the provider.
- Cloud is also a great option for start-ups who don’t want – or don’t have the resources – to make large capital investments in infrastructure.
- The pay-as-you-go model of cloud lets businesses make projects happen faster, as there’s no need to build their own network infrastructure.
- Through SaaS, cloud also provides access to the most up to date enterprise level software, which could offer them a competitive edge.
Cons of cloud computing
Of course, as with any technology adoption, it is essential to weigh up the negative aspects of cloud computing before determining whether it is suitable for your business.
Cost – having access to compute resources, software, security, and complete scalability on demand comes at a cost. As usage increases, so do the fees. This can make budgeting decisions more complex.
Control – to a certain extent, using cloud solutions means that you are handing control of your valuable IP to third parties. After all, the cloud is just someone else’s computer.
Types of managed cloud services
Determining which cloud services option is right for your business and budget can be a complex issue. Across the design, installation, embedding, and ongoing management of your cloud infrastructure, there can be many factors to consider.
At First Focus, we are all about simplifying the cloud migration process. Our expertise can help you decide between public, private, or hybrid cloud models.
We have a range of simple, affordable cloud solutions that you can customise to meet the specific needs of your business. And our professional technicians can help make sure you consider all your options and ensure your cloud migration proceeds as smoothly as possible.
A private cloud solution is dedicated solely to servicing an individual business. Private clouds provide enhanced security with physically isolated networks, computing, and storage layers. This security makes private clouds a popular choice for organisations that want increased protection for sensitive data. Performance levels are also typically higher with private cloud, and they offer the opportunity to customise applications and infrastructure performance. But again, this all comes with a higher price tag.
A public cloud serves multiple clients from a connected computing environment. While each client’s data is isolated from the other clients in the public cloud, they all share the same pool of virtual resources.
Public cloud is the most popular cloud option for businesses and is also one of the most cost-effective.
A hybrid cloud solution involves more than one solution and might incorporate a mix of on-premise infrastructure, private cloud, and public cloud services.
A hybrid cloud environment lets businesses access the benefits of both public and private cloud, along with any on-premise infrastructure they may wish to include. This solution offers a greater level of agility in terms of prioritising critical workloads while relegating low-priority tasks to cost-effective infrastructure.
Disaster recovery and cloud
Cloud-based disaster recovery lets businesses ensure that critical data and applications are still accessible should anything happen to their premises.
Previously, this level of recovery was only available to businesses that chose to have a second remote site to back up their data and applications. But this option could be prohibitively expensive, as it involved building and maintaining a second data centre.
Cloud DR is a much more cost-effective way of achieving the same outcome. With a cloud backup, your business can continue to operate with minimal delay.
Choosing a cloud disaster recovery solution
When choosing a cloud DR provider, it’s best to pick a geographically distant provider. This distance helps minimise the risk of a shared physical disaster – such as fire or flood – impacting both your business location and the DR provider. But they should not be located too far away either, as latency and increased network congestion then come into the equation.
The reliability of the cloud DR provider is another vital consideration, as outages and downtime could hurt your organisation in the long run. If your provider is offline when you need them in an emergency, the outcomes could be problematic for your business.
It’s also critical to make sure any DR solution you choose helps your organisation meet regulatory obligations in data storage and management. Some organisations must comply with certain standards that dictate how and where sensitive client data may be stored. These organisations may find that public cloud solutions are a bad fit, and may need to implement local or owned off-site DR solutions to meet compliance and security demands.
How can you migrate to the cloud?
A ‘cloud migration’ refers to the process of moving some or all of a business’ apps, data, and services from on-premises hardware to cloud servers. But before you start this process, you should know some best practices involved in cloud migration.
If you’re interested in cloud computing, you can get an overview of the process involved in our ten step-guide to cloud migration.
Need cloud services?
At First Focus, we are all about simplifying the process by offering our expertise to help you decide whether a public, private, or hybrid cloud model is right for you.